Golden State lawmakers have upped the ante in the fight against workplace sexual harassment and abuse with tougher employment training laws, which empower workers to free themselves of sexual harassment and fight injustice.
California, the U.S. nation’s most populous state, is well known for its progressive employment laws, and has long led the way in strengthening workplace protections for women as well as sexual and gender harassment. The trailblazing state has had laws on the books since 2005, when Governor Arnold Schwarznegger enacted a major overhaul of its original sexual harassment training requirements with Anti-Sexual Harassment law Assembly Bill 1825. Then in 2018 California lawmakers continued to demonstrate an aggressive and progressive agenda with the passage of major legislation – Senate Bill 1343.
The tough new policy, which adds a greater layer of protection to prevent sexual harassment or sex discrimination in the workplace, follows 2017’s bevy of media earthquake exposes of alledged sexual harassment and abuse of co-workers at the hands of ‘powerful’ figures in media, politics, and other high-profile walks of life. The news lifted the curtain on sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace and led to a torrent of stories about individual experiences, regressive workplace cultures, and the robust reforms needed to help shift the balance of power between perpetrators and their targets.
SB 1343, which was introduced by State Sen. Holly Mitchell, expands anti-harassment training requirements by lowering the threshold for the state’s sexual harassment training requirements for employers. Previously, only organizations with 50 or more employees were required to provide at least two hours of prescribed training and education regarding sexual harassment, abusive conduct, and harassment based upon gender to all supervisory employees within six months of them taking a supervisory position and then once every two years. However, the new legislation recognizes the sexual harassment threat to companies of all sizes as well as the need to provide sexual harassment training to all employees, not just spervisors. Under the new law, all employers of five or more employees must now provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees, as well as at least one hour of sexual harassment training to all nonsupervisory employees, by January 1, 2020 and then once every two years thereafter.
Additional requirements related to sexual harassment training in the workplace are also included in the law. For instance, training can be conducted in person or online but must be interactive. The training may be completed by employees individually or as part of a group presentation, and may be completed in shorter segments, as long as the applicable hourly total requirement is met.
If organizations don’t comply with the law, workers can register a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). While the department may allow some leeway if a training course comes out later than expected or if the organization struggles to find a qualified trainer, a complaint is still a big deal. At this point, failure to comply with the new amendment’s training requirements does not trigger a monetary penalty but if DFEH believes the law was violated, they will intervene to ensure the organization is correctly training employees and may seek an order requiring the employer to comply with the bill’s requirements.
“So far, SB 1343 represents a significantly more ambitious approach to preventing sexual harassment in Californian workplaces. With more companies now covered by the mandate, and more employees within every organization subject to training, the clock is ticking for Californian employers to ensure compliance by the January 1, 2020 deadline,” commented Rebecca Turco, SAI Global’s VP of Learning. “By acting proficiently to comply with SB 1343, organizations will demonstrate a commitment to their employees and to the mission of creating a productive and harmonious workplace culture. And while sexual harassment and discrimination training isn’t a silver buller, when combined with effective policies and procedures, Californian businesses may make a dent in the prevalence of these abhorrant events.”
California Senate Bill 1343 Mandates
- California employers with five or more employees must provide training (including seasonal and temporary employees).
- All Californian employees need to be trained every 2 years (not just supervisors)
- 2 hours for supervisors
- 1 hour for non-supervisors
- Employees are required to be trained during calendar year 2019
- Employees who were trained in 2018 or before will need to be retrained prior to January 1, 2020.
- After January 1, 2020, each employer covered by SB 1343 must provide training to each employee in California once every two years.
- Starting in 2020, employers must also provide this training to migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.
- Display sexual harassment informational posters in visible, high-traffic areas
- Provide a sexual harassment information sheet at request
- Provide training to employees within six months of hire
- Training can be conducted in person or online but must be interactive
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